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Page last updated at 13:22 GMT, Thursday, 12 May 2011 14:22 UK

Saints look to banish Premiership play-off pain

Mallinder looks ahead to play-off semi-final

By Jon Wilkinson
BBC Radio Northampton

Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder says the club are still stinging from the memory of defeat by Saracens in last year's Premiership play-off semi-final.

The Saints went down 21-19 at Franklin's Gardens , as Sarries advanced to the final, only to be beaten in the dying minutes by Leicester.

Mallinder's men travel to Welford Road on Saturday to face the seven-time Premiership champions and the Premiership Director of Rugby of the Season is sure they will draw inspiration from last year's heartbreak.

"What I remember from [the defeat to Saracens] is the hurt," Mallinder told BBC Look East.

"It was knowing that we were on our holidays. And that'll be going through Leicester's mind - it's their last game if we beat them."

The Tigers' 41-41 draw with Gloucester in April, and the 14-15 defeat to Saracens in March, may hint at previously unthinkable fallibility at Welford Road - but Mallinder is adamant that this East Midlands derby will present one of the sternest tests his team has faced.

"There's so much to admire about Leicester," he said.

"They're consistently up there, every single year. They have a tremendous home record and are a great side, full of internationals."

Winning is all I think about - Lawes

Although Saints look set to be with England back-row forward and Premiership Player of the Season Tom Wood , due to a leg injury, the Heineken Cup finalists have a host of international stars to pit against the Tigers.

England full-back Ben Foden, who scored a try in the 27-16 defeat to Leicester at Welford Road in January, believes the Saints will have to be fully committed to avoid another semi-final disappointment.

"We go in as underdogs and we can't go there and give it half our effort. We've got to test Leicester and see what they've got," he said.

"They're one of those great teams who perform week in, week out. They're ready to win ugly as well as play excellent rugby.

"But I look around at the guys in our squad and know what we're capable of when we get it right."

Foden, Dylan Hartley, Chris Ashton and Courtney Lawes will be well acquainted with their England team-mates in the Tigers' squad.

Lawes says the bragging rights are significant.

"You have the banter after the game, and you want to make sure you get the best of them.

"It's not too hard to get focused. For this whole week, I've been thinking about the game. I'll really enjoy it."

The winner of the clash at Welford Road will play either Saracens or Gloucester at Twickenham on Saturday, 28 May.

"It's going to be a very, very tough game," Mallinder predicts. "But we're capable of winning it."

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see also
Foden praises Wood and Mallinder
12 May 11 |  Northampton
Wood named top Premiership player
12 May 11 |  English
Leicester 27-16 Northampton
08 Jan 11 |  English
Northampton 19-21 Saracens
16 May 10 |  English

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